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Kids See Fewer Ads for Sweets, More for Fast Food

Study Shows Some Improvement in TV Ads Targeting Kids Since 2003

Some Positive Strides Seen continued...

Exposure to ads for bottled water and diet soft drinks increased for all age groups.

Fast-food TV ads, however,  increased by 4.7% among children aged 2 to 5, 12.2% among kids aged 6 to 12, and 20.4% among teens aged 12 to 16 from 2003 to 2007, the study showed.

The researchers also looked at the racial gap in TV food advertising and found some important distinctions. For example, African-American children saw 1.4 to 1.6 times as many food ads each day as their white counterparts, and African-American children and teens saw double when it came to exposure to fast-food ads per day when compared with white children.

More Corporate Responsibility Needed

Michael Mink, PhD, an assistant professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga., recently published a study that found that making food choices based on TV advertising results in a very imbalanced diet. His findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

“The number of sweets and beverage ads did go down, while fast food increased in the new study. And that is an equal trade-off, but not necessarily a good one,” he says. “Companies need to focus on marketing and creating healthier foods and convincing people to eat better. 

“They make a lot of money off of foods that they know are unhealthy, and there have to be ways to make money on healthy foods,” Mink says. His mantra? “If its advertised on TV, it’s probably not good for you."

“This may be a good sign, albeit of relatively small magnitude,” says Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, co-director of George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C.” Although children are slightly seeing fewer TV ads for sweets and sugary drinks, they're seeing much more marketing for fast food.”

“The nutrition and obesity communities have been leaning on the food industry to exert corporate responsibility when it comes to food advertising to kids, particularly young kids,” he tells WebMD. "Marketing to young kids, especially the youngest kids, is particularly manipulative. Preying on young kids (and, by extension, their parents) by using cartoon characters, superheroes, and the like in order to promote unhealthful foods is inappropriate and irresponsible."

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